It is not possible to emphasize enough the significant role that African art played in shaping the history and culture of mankind. African art dates back to the time before recorded history. For instance, the rock art of Africa is centuries old, whereas the shell beads necklaces that were found in a cave of the South African Southern Peninsula are expected to be at least 75,000 years old.
In general, wood has been accepted as the best and main known medium of African Art. However, the sculptures and other artifacts that have been discovered over the years prove that other materials like copper alloys, iron, pottery, ivory, unfired clay, and even stone have been used by African artists.
The modern African art that we know today is absolutely different, yet very similar to traditional African art. To know more about contemporary African art, you can visit the website of Abraham Abia Biteo Roka. He has written a complete article describing contemporary African art and its ever-growing popularity. Abraham recognizes the true worth of African artists and believes they need a better platform.
It is difficult to cover the entire history of African art, but some prominent ones are discussed here:
Prehistoric African Rock Art
Some of the prehistoric art of Africa the Blombos Cave Engravings, the Diepkloof Eggshell Engravings, and the Apollo 11 Cave Stone – are believed to be the work of yellow-skinned Bushmen. These were the natives of southern Africa. Nevertheless, when they exactly appear, and how old their history is, no one knows.
The Famous Wooden Sculptures of Africa
The greatest contribution that artists from Africa have made to the world’s culture is their sculptures. However, this art of wooden sculpting was barely recognized outside the ‘dark’ continent till the last century end. In the beginning, these amazing sculpture art pieces were only considered colonial trophies, or strange objects that can be placed in museums.
Later, these art pieces attracted the attention of European artists who were excited to explore and experience new artworks. Some of the artists that were thrilled by the abstract sculptures of Africa were:
- Andre Derain (1880-1954)
- Maurice De Vlaminck (1876-1958)
- Picasso (1881-1973)
- Matisse (1867-1954)
Bambara Farmers and their Art
Africa is not a land of kings, priests, sorcerers, or witch doctors, but the farmers who work hard in their lives to produce grain. A major sculptural tradition of Africa includes the representation of such figures and masks that assure the fertility of the fields. Also, such artifacts represent the survival of cultivators or farmers.
Most of the African artworks that are now associated with social or aesthetic functions were first considered religious items. Several African arts have a proper or hidden religious or symbolic role.
For instance, the members of the Yoruba are famous African carvers, and the biggest concentration of their artwork is associated with religious art. Their art pieces are mostly devoted to the cults.
African art history is extremely wide, and similarly is their contribution to the world we live in. The variety of forms, practices, and materials used is baffling to understand even today. Also, to fully understand African art pieces, it is important to learn their signs and symbols. All in all, it is safe to say that even though we know a lot about African art and its history today, we probably know nothing.